Bye Bye the Brasserie
I’ve never written a eulogy before and it feels even stranger that I should be writing one now about a bar. But write it I will. Because it was a nice bar.
I never got round to writing a rave about the "Brasserie Les Sans-Culottes" despite the fact that I liked the place very much. Like many places I like visiting for a drink, I just have never got round to mentioning it.
Truth be told I doubt that me writing a review of it would have done huge amounts to the number of customers it did (Bods Central is hardly a well visited site), but I’m sad non the less.
The Brasserie (literally The Brasserie without Trousers, if I remember my French) was a French microbrewery and restaurant in Endell Street, tucked away in Covent Garden, London. It was off the beaten track a bit, but not much.
It opened, I believe, in the Spring of 2002, and closed at some point in 2003.
About the place.
I first came to know the Brasserie by a mention in London Drinker, a free magazine distributed to pubs in Greater London which is published by the London branches of CAMRA.
It was French style. Run and staffed by, as far as I could tell, French people. The beers, brewed behind the bar, were French style, the food was French style.
The beers, four of them, were brewed behind the bar. One was always a continental lager, one was a pilsner, and two were more ale-ish.
Catherine and I first went there around about June 2002 after reading about it in London Drinker. We fell in love with the place. It was quiet and relaxed, and the beer (especially the wonderful La Rousse) was divine.
After a while the beer changed. La Rouse and it’s cohort La Rouge were replaced by L’Ambree and La Brune. Initially L’Ambree was very good, but seemed to become a bit too watery later in it’s life. La Brune remained a good beer.
Food and drink.
The Brasserie was neither one thing nor the other – perhaps part of it’s downfall.
It was half restaurant, half bar.
The brasserie’s business card. It had a map on the back as well. The phone number has been blurred should it get re-assigned to someone else.
When we visited the bar side seemed to be doing reasonably well, but the restaurant was never particularly packed. A shame in my view. The food was quite nice. As a vegetarian, Catherine didn’t have such a good time on the one time we dined in their restaurant. French food isn’t very veggie friendly.
Still the beer was good, and the staff were nice. Usually warm, welcoming and friendly – attributes not often found in the central of London. It was a nice place to go on a Saturday night – never packed to the rafters, but never particularly empty once it had got itself known. It was just a nice, relaxing bar to adjorn too. Nice beer, no deafening music.
When the Brasserie closed, I don’t know. I walk past the place once or twice a week going to have a pre-work swim, and had noticed the metal shutters had been down the last few times I walked by. This didn’t mean much. Whilst the shutters where usually up by 8:30am, they weren’t always.
We popped by tonight, desireing a post-work tipple. I hadn’t been for a while – in fact I think it was around Christmas. I hadn’t been out for a drink in Covent Garden for ages – those occasions I had, I’d been there on Sundays when the Brasserie was closed anyway. Catherine went about two months ago and all was reasonably well.
But tonight the shutters were down, and a sale sign was stuck to the wall. It have arrived in the last week as it certainly wasn’t there last Wednesday when I walked past for my swim. A minimal compliment of lights were on inside – just enough for security and little more. Nothing else suggested the place was closed. The two sign areas outside still showed pictures of the decour inside.
We’ll miss you.
Why it closed, we may never know. The phone is unanswered, there is no sign on the door.
It could have been for many reasons. It might have lost a shed load of money, or maybe just not made enough to keep it going. It might have had a cheap lease for a year, which was due to go up, but which the custom base still wouldn’t support. It might have been that the owners had a big fight and called it quits. Who knows. Successful businesses close down quite often in Central London.
It might just have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Who knows, if it had been in Ealing and maybe been more restaurant based, it might have survived. Central London is a cut throught world to start a new business in – it won’t be the first good idea to not have lasted.
What will replace it, who knows. The decor inside is quite nice and not exactly gaelic. Indeed it might have been that it was left by some other failed enterprise. To whoever takes on the now empty premises, I wish you luck. I’ll be watching you closely. If it becomes just another faux-trendy bar, I’ll be very disappointed.
A final word.
In the unlikely event that anyone who was ever involved with the Brasserie ever finds this tribute, do pop me a line to let me know. I’d like to tell you that I really liked the place, and the beer that was available.
There aren’t many French microbreweries in London – if any – which made the Brasserie pretty special. I’m sad it didn’t work out in the end. It’s London’s loss.
Maybe the concept will rise from the ashes somewhere else. I hope so. I really do. But Covent Garden is a lesser place without it’s French microbrewery. It’s a shame the dream lasted only a year.